(Ping! Zine Web Tech Magazine) – If you have not already done so, now is time to embrace the digital and technological approach to business management. Ignoring modern technology is no longer an option because most of your competitors will already being using it to gain an advantage over you and your business.
Most companies use some form of computerized support system to help manage and run their business. How the technology is actually utilized varies widely; some just using simple cloud based file storage to secure data while others have implemented full enterprise resource planning systems (ERP) to increase productivity and manage workflows.
IT is now a key part of strategic growth in all markets, at all levels. No business is too small to take advantage of the huge array of services on offer today. Many self-employed traders are using websites, social media and email to promote and manage their services.
Here we will share with you some of the most useful digital solutions and explain the advantages of using them. Some are easy to install while others may require technical support to get started, but once you are running you will soon learn to manage the system yourself.
Today there is a simple rule in commerce, if you are selling something you must be selling it online. Many traditional retail outlets have implemented e-commerce solutions. However, some have been put off due to an assumption that you need to invest in a fully functioning website that can handle payments and process orders; this is not the case. Many retailers are taking advantage of companies such as eBay and Amazon who have developed services to support merchants. The majority of consumers buying online use these companies to source products and read reviews. Many businesses sell more products through these channels than via their own e-commerce websites.
The explosive growth of smartphones has opened up an entirely new market as people use them to access the Internet than traditional desktop computers and apps are providing much of the content. Although every business should have a mobile optimized website, the new growth area is app development.
There are essentially two types of apps for business. First, apps that you create to help promote your business brand and reach new customers. These are designed to provide a useful service to customers while also giving you the opportunity to advertise your services. Some apps are designed purely to help encourage repeat orders; for example, an e-commerce app will allow customers to submit a new order from their phone. These are especially useful in industries where customers are working remotely from an office for most of the day.
The other type of app is one that is created by a third party to help support your business. One of the biggest providers today is Google Apps, which currently supports five million businesses. Apps include email, calendar, drive and docs. The most basic and possibly the most important app is email. Many businesses receive most of their orders and inquiries via email and the ability to respond at any time can help convert inquiries into buyers.
Marketing your business online
Online business marketing is a massive growth area currently being driven by social media. Having an online presence goes far beyond a listing in Yell and creating your own web page. Social media has developed to become a vital source of new business for many companies, with Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ all providing innovative ways to reach a wider audience.
Facebook is still the number one platform in terms of the total number of people who use it. It only takes a few minutes to create a Facebook Page, which can be shared with family, friends and customers. This is a place to provide limited information about your services, promote new products and manage customer enquiries and feedback.
LinkedIn can be a useful tool to network with other people in your industry. Create a profile page and explain what your skills are and what services you offer. Next, connect with current suppliers, customers and people you have worked with in the past. This may help develop new business-to-business connections that can become an important source of repeat business
The cloud is often talked about but often misunderstood. It sounds mysterious and ethereal, but in fact it is just a way to describe a computer system that is located remotely from your premises.
The benefit of using cloud servers is that they are secure and reliable. Computer hard drives are prone to failure and therefore vulnerable to burglary, fire or flood, which could easily result in all your records being lost. Cloud service providers create multiple data backups and regularly test for data integrity.
However, the cloud also has more practical uses. Cloud based databases provide a way to easily collaborate on projects and update company records. If you have a sales team operating out of the office most of the time a cloud-based database enables sales data to be input allowing management to monitor performance in real time. Documents can be drafted, edited and approved quickly without the need to send multiple emails.
Many companies are now providing full business support via cloud-based systems. A growing area is BPM (Business Process Management) and ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning), which are management systems that allow information to be gathered from all departments to provide management reports on company health and progress. Many businesses are using these systems to identify new markets and improve workflows to aid rapid business growth.
One service that focuses on process automation is document management software, which is designed to speed up critical decision making by ensuring all company data is accessible and actionable. The most successful businesses respond to changing markets by identifying new trends, while those that rely on traditional monthly management accounts are left behind.